It was one of the most celebrated watch designers in history – creator of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, no less – who first alerted the modern world, back in the 90s, to the striking potential of bronze as a material for making watches with the Gerald Genta Gefica, a piece inspired by marine instruments.
Now, following the introduction of its first bronze model – a Black Bay with a chocolate brown dial, which won the Petite Aiguille prize at the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – Rolex’s sister brand Tudor has come up with another piece fashioned from this majestic alloy, this time with a new slate-grey shaded dial and bezel (£2,910).
As with Genta’s ground-breaking piece, the Black Bay Bronze’s 43-millimetre bronze case packs nautical aesthetics (aluminium-copper alloy is used in naval engineering for submerged parts of the ship that need to be corrosion-resistant) that will change with time thanks to the material’s tendency to patinate. A homogeneous development of said patina is guaranteed, thanks to satin-brushed finishes. Enhancing the overall aesthetic is a slate-grey dial, shaded from the exterior to the centre, along with the gold accents found on the hands and hour markers.
The beating heart within its striking exterior is the Manufacture Calibre MT5601, which at 33.8 millimetres is the widest of all Tudor’s calibres. Boasting a variable inertia balance, maintained by a sturdy traversing bridge with a two-point fixation, as well as a non-magnetic silicon balance spring, the calibre is certified as a chronometer by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) and packs a 70-hour power reserve. Its openwork rotor is satin-brushed with sand-blasted details, while its bridges and plate have alternating polished sand-blasted surfaces and laser decorations.
Perhaps the watch’s main pub story talking point, though, is one of the two straps available. The French Navy once received consignments of Tudor watches without bracelets and would thus fit their own, often handmade ones. One found on a period divers’ watch in Tudor’s archives was fashioned from elastic recovered from French rescue parachutes, identifiable in part thanks to its gold-coloured thread. This was the inspiration for the slate-grey woven jacquard strap available for the Black Bay Bronze, while the alternative is an elegant, straight-cut black leather strap.